Employers want it. Applicants need it. “It” is soft skills — a squishy bundle of attributes vital for workplace success.
Soft skills include a strong work ethic, dependability, positive attitude, self motivation, leadership, teamwork, flexibility, problem solving, grace under pressure, and communication skills, oral and written.
The challenge for job hunters is to convey soft skills in an interview. The challenge for employers is to figure out who has them, who doesn’t, and who’s faking it.
Many mid-sized and large companies use pre-employment screening tests to help discern applicants’ traits. Others rely on gut instinct from interviews. If that’s your case, here are ideas from Piera Palazzolo at Dale Carnegie Training and Rosemary Haefner at CareerBuilder:
• Look for applicants to be on time, dressed appropriately and make good eye contact. Have they researched the company? Do they ask appropriate questions? Are they good listeners and conversationalists?
• Ask for specific examples of how they have worked in teams, shown leadership or solved problems.
• Have they kept in touch with previous managers or co-workers? Do they talk about good work relationships or do you hear negativity or isolation?
• Get other people in your organization to talk to applicants. Some people show their true selves in “small talk” with prospective hirers or bosses.
• Give credit to applicants who send timely and specific thank-you notes pertinent to the interview, not just a boilerplate response.
Interviewers need to dig beyond what may be canned answers to expected questions. Look for the underlying personalities and attitudes.
Job hunters: Know what interviewers are looking for. Be prepared, positive, personable with everyone and ready with specific examples to share.